Q: My girlfriend and I want to buy a house together but I am not keen on getting married as my father’s three failed marriages have put me off. A friend says we should have a solicitor draw up a Declaration of Trust to protect ourselves if we are not married. Is this a good idea?
A: Entering into a Declaration of Trust when purchasing a property if you are unmarried can be sensible if you are contributing different amounts to its purchase price, as it is a document setting out what share of the property is owned by each party.
The law does treat cohabitees differently to married couples if the relationship ends. You may therefore wish to consider entering into a Cohabitation Agreement. That can be helpful as it can clearly define your respective responsibilities and interests you have in each other’s assets. The Agreement can set out what share of the mortgage and bills you will each pay and can also include what the arrangements will be in the event that things don’t work out.
A Cohabitation Agreement can contain as much or as little information as you wish it to, so it is very flexible. Although Cohabitation Agreements are currently not legally binding, the Courts are increasingly taking account of them if the relationship breaks down as it demonstrates both of your intentions at the time the document was entered into. The document can be reviewed during your relationship, periodically or if a child was born for example. The Agreement must be fair, evident that you have both entered into it freely, there has been full disclosure of both parties’ financial circumstances and you have both taken independent legal advice.
Prior to purchasing the property with your girlfriend, we would suggest you obtain legal advice from a solicitor about your options.